Being selected to give away millions of dollars every year on behalf of the late David and Rita Nelson presents the Community Foundation with both a tremendous opportunity and a compelling challenge.
Their estate gift of more than $100 million – the largest in the Foundation’s 32-year history and among the largest charitable gifts ever in Wisconsin – used to establish the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Foundation was announced two months ago. The gift will be invested for the long-term as an endowment to award grants primarily in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas, year after year, forever.
By 2021, the fund is expected to grant out $4.5 million per year, based on Foundation policies that allow up to 4.5% of the money in an endowment fund to be distributed each year.
“This staggeringly generous gift places in our hands the ability to transform so many aspects of life here in the Fox Cities and in the Green Bay area, reflecting the interests of the Nelsons,” Curt Detjen, President and CEO, said. An advisory committee made up of people who knew them will work with Community Foundation staff to determine nonprofit projects and programs the grants will support.
That’s a model David and Rita could see at work in how Neenah philanthropist Frank C. Shattuck arranged his charitable legacy and they embraced it. Shattuck, who died in 1999 and left what was then the largest gift ever to the Foundation at $9.6 million, arranged for an advisory committee, with support from Foundation staff, to make grants from the Frank C. Shattuck Community Fund.
“David and Rita liked this approach – the combination of the advisory committee’s insights together with the research, reviews and granting skills of the Foundation team creating results well beyond what either could do alone,” Curt Detjen, Foundation President and CEO, said.
Shattuck’s $9.6 million gift has generated $6.9 million in grants to advance causes that were important to him. Thanks to prudent investment, the fund’s asset value remains strong to continue giving forever.
Grants from the Nelsons’ own gift similarly will be determined by an advisory committee working with staff. The Nelsons’ interests include historic preservation, historical societies, museums, lighthouses, parks, recreation, waterways, community centers, community services, education and health care.
“I am eager for the opportunity to grow in our capabilities through this experience, and for what it will mean for our overall effectiveness in serving all our donors,” Detjen said. “This is exactly why the Foundation’s founders worked so hard to get it established 32 years ago.”
Before their deaths, the Foundation was able to work with the Nelsons and their financial advisor, Derek McDermott of Chilton, to arrive at the approach using the advisory committee and the Foundation’s staff to determine which organizations, projects and grant amounts best express the interests of the donors and their family. There will be no application process. Grants totaling $3.5 million were awarded when the gift was announced May 1. No additional grants will be available until summer 2019.
“Both the dollars and the possibilities are great, and our staff is excited for this opportunity to work with the fund’s advisory committee,” Detjen said.
- Read May 1 announcement
- View media coverage of Nelsons’ gift
- Who were David and Rita Nelson?
- Nelson Fund grant will complete range light restoration
- $650,000 grant will help “Loop the Locks”